Where Facts And Controversy In The News Come Together In Truth

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Did Judges Decision Leave Corporate Officers Free To Continue Abusing Troubled Children

Part 1 of 3... Kanawha County Judge Duke Bloom And State DHHR Failed To Enforce Agreement by, Jack Swint

“Our family was duped into believing that caring people would help Ryan, who was struggling with a learning disability and clinical depression. We thought these were professionals who knew what they were doing. We had no idea that their interest was profit, not healing.” ... Paul Lewis’s son Ryan committed suicide at a residential school and wilderness program in West Virginia in 2001.

The Death Of 14 Year Old Ryan Lewis
On February 13, 2001 fourteen year old Ryan Lewis (pictured to the left) hanged himself with a tent rope after showing an Alldredge Academy wilderness camp counselor where he had slashed his forearms with a knife. According to court records, the instructor "exacted a promise" from Ryan that he wouldn't hurt himself again. The instructor returned the teens program-supplied knife to him.

Ryan, like other troubled teens, was enrolled in the 90 day program in hopes of gaining insight and help into his psychological problems and to learn about himself in a surrounding that staff members referred to as “search and rescue.”
Subsequently, a lawsuit was then filed against the Tucker County facility and its co-founders, former Seattle attorney, L. Jay Mitchell and Lance Wells. According to the suit, Ryan told counselors he cut himself because he wanted to get out of the three-month wilderness program, and asked him to "take my knife before I hurt myself more."

Mitchell, Wells and other staff members were also indicted in Tucker County on felony charges of causing the death of a minor by neglect. After an investigation by the DHHR, then secretary Paul Nusbaum ordered the Academy closed because of numerous violations and safety concerns.

There were other allegations brought forth of 13 year old Gregory Owen Jones who died in 1985 while attending another wilderness camp facility in Utah, also founded by L. Jay Mitchell. Jones was killed after he reportedly fell off of a cliff after being left unattended by staff during a wilderness hike.

In the WV case, the owners appealed the decision to circuit court, and it ended up in Judge Duke Blooms hands where he not only overruled the DHHR’s order to close Alldredge, but also allowed L. Jay Mitchell to actually change the name of the Academy and remain open. Bloom ordered that Mitchell and the state work out a settlement agreement. That case is 01-C-1758, Kanawha County WV.
Ironically, according to documents we located from the Government Accountability Office, the court also overlooked the fact that Alldredge was illegally operating the facility on US Forrest property without paid permits or usage forms.

Mitchell, along with counselor John Weston White, had originally been charged in Tucker County with child neglect resulting in death. Their contention was that they were not personally responsible, that any action taken should be against the company. Tucker County Prosecutor William "Mont" Miller dropped the felony charges against the individuals. Alldredge officials agreed not to fight the crimes in the companies official capacity.
In the end, the Alldredge corporation pled "no contest", and was convicted of child neglect resulting in death, and only fined $5,000.
Sources report that dismissing the felony charges against Mitchell, and subsequent plea agreement, were supported and approved by Tucker County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Frye. Ryan Lewis's family later settled their Kanawha County civil lawsuit for $1.2 million. Judge Blooms decision to overrule the DHHR’s order to close Alldredge down, has actually allowed L. Jay Mitchell to continue working with troubled young teens who travel to WV from all across the nation seeking help.

Court documetns and newspaper articles, report that part of the agreement the court approved was to forever bar Mitchell from being associated with Alldredge, or any of its offspring companies. Under WV law, no person, who has been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony charge of neglect to a child that results in injury or death, can obtain the neccessary permits from DHHR to operate any facility that cares for children.

But, Mitchell has defied any such agreement and still is directly responsible for operating these same type academies in WV. He has created a paper trail of company names and corporation officers with the Secretary of State to try and cloak his involvement over the past years. Most recently he has become more visible according to his involvement in the Greenbrier Academy For Girls in Pence Spring. (see link below)

Records show, L Jay Mitchell, as President and Founder.
According to the WV Secretary of State and other records, Mitchell, along with family members and colleagues, has changed or cloaked the original business names and location related from Alldredge Academy, to:
Ayne’s Institute,

Alldredge Wilderness Journey Academy,

Solacium Alldredge,
Solacium Greenbrier,

Solacium Holdings,

Relational Management Services LLC,

Greenbrier Academy For Girls

The Spin Doctor Effect

On December 17, 2008, a press release was issued as a “farewell letter” to say goodbye; in spirit only. According to one source for this story, "Mitchell had no intention on giving up his cash cow just because a few troubled kids were abused or died." The farewell letter was just a formality in preparation for switching to a new business name. It was published through the parent company based in Utah known as “InnerChange."

The press release stated in part….“So, why is Alldredge closing? First, for many varied reasons (and with no one at fault), we have been unable to consistently maintain an adequate number of students in the program. It simply isn’t feasible to operate at census levels 40-50% below “plan” indefinitely.
Second, we believe the current market downturn and national economic slump will be lengthy, and most certainly won’t end during the first several months of 2009. In our view, things are likely to get worse before they get better."

Who Is Lionell Jay "LJ" Mitchell?

Prior to his academies in WV, Mitchell (pictured to the left)also founded the “School of Urban and Wilderness Survival,” in 1981. He felt that traditional therapeutic interventions weren't working for children in the juvenile justice system. He developed a survival-based program based on a wilderness course that had been taught to Brigham Young University students on academic probation. With a partner, Mitchell brought the program to the southern Idaho desert.

He has been named a defendant in numerous civil actions in multiple states. Besides the WV civil case, filed by the Ryan family in Kanawha County, we found at least two others that detail abuse to teens under his care in WV. In October 2003, a suite was filed in US District Court for the Eastern District Of Pennsylvania. The complaint claims that in November of 2000, Joseph Giannone, Jr., a minor, enrolled in Alldredge Academy’s wilderness program. Just two weeks later, he left the program with “severe frostbite and other physical and emotional injuries.” His parents, Joseph Giannone, Sr. and Rita Giannone, individually and on Joseph, Jr.’s behalf, filed a twenty-three count complaint against Alldredge, its employees, and its agents.

In 2008, a personal injury civil suite was filed on behalf of Lisa Sheffield against the Relational Management Services LLC in Summers County. That case, 08-C-39 was resolved out of Court according to the Circuit Court Clerk. Defendants in that case included... Relational Management Services, LLC, Solacium Holdings, LLC, Solacium Greenbrier, LLC, TAS Greenbrier Properties, LLC, L. Jay Mitchell, Teri A. Mitchell, Bart J. Mitchell, Cheryl Mitchell, Matthew Hart, Ron Schwenkler, Val Christensen and Brent D. Slife.

In Closing,

Directly or indirectly, the decision by Kanawha County Judge Duke Bloom to overrule the DHHR’s order to close down Alldredge Academy allowed its founder, L. Jay Mitchell, to continue conducting a business in WV that has a history of causing abuse, injury and even death.

In fact, Mitchell intentionally kept operating these boot camp type facilities even though he was ordered, and agreed, not to have any involvement with any like business related to Alldredge. It shows that he had no intention of obeying any court, and by eluding being prosecuted in his personal capacity for the felony death of Ryan, he skated justice altogether.

Not to mention, that Alldredge was actually operating illegally on US Forrest property.

Mitchell went as far as to cloak himself from the WV Secretary of State’s office by creating a paper trail of corporations in WV and out of state. Now, several years later, and numerous corporate entities, he feels comfortable that no one remembers his past troubles and or court agreements.
These academies are making millions of dollars a year even though they claim in some charters to be “non-profit.” Alldredge’s program cost parents (or insurance companies) approximately $20,000 for a 90 day stay. Now, the cost for just one month at the Greenbrier School for girls is $6,875.00 a month. The program states there is a 12 month average stay.
Whose responsibility is it to ensure that court agreements, like the one made with Alldredge and their staff and corporate officers is honored?

What role does the Secretary of States office play when someone intentionally creates a paper trail to hide their acts? One would think they might be alerted to someone who registers at least 9 corporations in a 8 year period. US Senator Joe Manchin, Betty Ireland and Natalie Tennant have all been Secretary of State during that span of time. Does WV need new legislation for the SOS Corporations Division to avoid improper/illegal registration of businesses and to assure that an entity is eligible to do business in West Virginia?

If Tucker County Prosecutor, "Mont" Miller hadnt dropped felony charges against L. Jay Mitchell for death of a child by neglect, would Mitchell still be allowed to operate in WV? If Kanawha County Judge Duke Bloom had followed the direction of the DHHR's order to close down Alldredge, and or followed through to ensure Mitchell adhered to the agreement, would any further abuse have occured?
Wouldn’t a flag go up when additional complaints lawsuits were filed for abuse with L. Jay Mitchell as a defendant? One case against him in Summers County, as recently as 2008, was settled out of court.
Bottom line, there are not enough fingers on two hands to point at everyone who dropped the ball. Maybe someone will come forward and investigate. The only remaining question…what happens next?

End Of Story

Jack Swint - Publisher


Links Of Interst
.Ryan Lewis

Paul Lewis Testimony

Joseph Giannone

Alldredge Academy

Relational Management Services LLC

L. Jay Mitchell And Greenbrier Academy For Girls

House Committe Examines Child Deaths At Private Camps


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Anais Wren said...

Thank you for continuing to follow this case.

Anais Wren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

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